Tales of Caution: Medi-Cal Recovery

Hello, everybody, and welcome to my video blogs. I’m Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney and I work in the area of estate planning, trust administration, and elder law. And this month, for October, we are doing Tales Of Caution. This Tale of Caution is about who I would like to call Medi-Cal Recovery Ruth.

Ruth and John, a married couple, spent their lives, their working lives, building up their nest egg for retirement. They enjoyed the fruits of their labor and they both retired for about 10 years. Then John was diagnosed with Dementia. Ruth cared for him for as long as she possibly could, about seven years, but eventually, John needed to be placed in a care home because she could no longer care for him. She found a skilled nursing facility that cared for late-stage Dementia patients, and they charged a whopping $12,000 a month. Within two years, their savings was wiped out, and Ruth applied for long-term care benefits through Medi-Cal. She was able to keep their house, as it is exempt from calculations and qualifying for Medi-Cal. And because she had spent all the savings paying for his care prior, they met all the requirements to qualify for Medi-Cal, and John’s health care or skilled nursing facility costs were paid for by Medi-Cal for another 18 months until he passed away.

After John’s death, Ruth lived another five years, and at her death, all their assets were to go to their two children. However, the only asset left in their estate was their house, ’cause it was exempt at the time John applied for Medi-Cal. Well, after Ruth died, the children received a notice from Medi-Cal demanding to recover the $216,000 they had spent on his care during those 18 months.

You’re thinking to yourself, “Can they do that?” Yes, they can. It’s called Medi-Cal Recovery. And as a result, the children received pretty much nothing, because Medi-Cal places a lien on the house, the house is sold, and their recovery debts are paid through that money. And it’s only after those debts are paid do the children inherit.

Could Ruth and John have prevented this? Yes. They could’ve prevented the depletion of their savings for his care initially, and they could have protected their home from any recovery that Medi-Cal would seek after they both passed away. But she didn’t seek out that advice or that help, and often people don’t know that it’s out there. If she had contacted a qualified attorney who handles Medi-Cal benefit planning, she could have at least saved the home from recovery.

The moral of this tale of caution is that if you find yourself confronted with the high cost of long-term nursing home care, consult a qualified attorney before you go any further. You don’t want to end up like Ruth and John.

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